To Be Theresa LePore
Former Palm Beach County supervisor of elections
Creator, 2000 presidential butterfly ballot
I was at a luncheon, and some lady comes up to me. “Are you going to hit me,” I said, “or are you going to be nice to me?” We had a good conversation. Usually, I kind of hesitate when people [approach] me. I can’t always judge what their reaction is going to be.
I’ve gotten some really ugly, hateful mail. And death threats. [People have said that] I have the blood of thousands of men and women on my hands. That I put Bush in office, both terms. That 9/11 was my fault.
I lost so many friends over what happened [during the 2000 presidential election], and some people today still don’t speak to me when I see them. I think what upsets me the most is that I was on several task forces for balloting—and the idea was to make the ballot easier for the people to read.
A couple days after [the election], I remember going upstairs to the county attorney’s office. There’s a back elevator. When we came down and the elevator door opened, there were 60 or 70 of these SWAT guys, and all these flashbulbs were going off. The press had found me. People were screaming, “There she is! There she is!” They were calling me names and trying to grab at me. That was the first time I realized the enormity of what was happening.
I kind of lost it. One of the cops said, “Get it out. Dry your tears, and then get back out there.”
By Thursday [of that election week], some of my top people came to my office and said, “Did you drive?” Apparently, they had intercepted a threat. I didn’t drive my car for probably six or seven weeks after that. When I finally did, I had nails in all four of my tires. That’s one of the memories that’s burned in: riding home with a sheriff’s car in front of me and a sheriff’s car behind me.
I’m still very cautious when I go places. I’m always looking around. I never drive the same route twice; if I’m going to church, I’ll always go a different way. I always back into parking spaces because it’s easier to get out. I don’t go to a lot of big places unless I know it’s at a time when it’s not very busy. I joke that I have to tip well because everybody knows who I am. It’s never gone back to the way it was before that day.
Today, I’m involved with a lot of nonprofits, but I’m mostly in the background, helping with events and [serving on boards]. People used to ask me for [political] support or endorsements, but I always said no. I still have a stigma attached to me; I don’t want someone to lose an election because of that.
I’ve always been one to use everything as a learning experience. It’s just wasted energy thinking about all the negative stuff. If I did, I’d be curled up in a ball somewhere.